a matter 3A Matter of Breeding, book five in the Viennese Mysteries, has just been published in England (due out in the U.S. in July) and has already been earning critical praise. British bookseller and blogger Jo Graham commented: “This is a rich and luscious historical read, within a well crafted plot, there are plenty of historical facts and famous faces to be found, fans of Conan Doyle will love this.” U.S. critic David Marshall, writing on the Thinking about Books Web site, remarked: “Altogether, A Matter of Breeding is a thoughtful … entertaining mystery.”

Read this fellow to get the real feel for the book and the series.

A quick précis :

1901. Karl Werthen and his colleague, renowned criminologist Dr Hanns Gross, are investigating a bizarre series of murders in the small Austrian town of Graz, aided, or impeded, by Irish author Bram Stoker, who as Marshall noted, is “some author fellow who’s visiting to promote his books. It seems vampires are at large and an expert’s help is called for. ” Meanwhile, back in Vienna, Karl’s wife Berthe is looking into what seems to be a fraudulent breeding scheme involving the prized Lipizzaner horses. Could the two investigations be connected?

GaryCorby[1]Australian novelist Gary Corby is the author of the Athenian Mystery series, which stars, as Corby explains on his home page, “Nicolaos, his girlfriend Diotima, and his irritating twelve year old brother Socrates.” The most recent series installment, The Marathon Conspiracy, is out this coming May. Publishers Weekly has this to say about the series: “Corby displays a real gift for pacing and plotting.” Similarly, Library Journal commented: “Mix one part ancient history, one part clever and contemporary banter, and one part action, and you have a top-notch crime caper.”

Gary, it is a real pleasure to welcome you Up Over (sorry about that) to Scene of the Crime. Can we start things off with the obvious? What made you choose ancient Greece for murder mysteries? Continue Reading »

Image2It is my pleasure today to present an extended interview with J. Robert Janes, author of the acclaimed St-Cyr and Kohler series set in occupied France during World War II. The Wall Street Journal called the series “engrossing,” and Publishers Weekly felt that it “convincingly documents the wartime background of Nazi-occupied.” Jean-Louis St-Cyr is a widower, a inspector of the French Sûreté, and is partnered in crime detection with Bavarian Detektiv Inspektor Hermann Kohler. The pair set out together first in the 1992 Mayhem, and have been at it ever since, though there was a decade-long hiatus from 2002 to 2012. Janes had not quit writing during that time; far from it. He penned three further novels in the series as well as several young adult works, but it was not until 2012 that he struck a new publishing deal with Otto Penzler of Mysterious Press and his Open Road Media partners: they published Janes’ entire backlist in e-book, and contracted for future titles in the series as paperback and e-book originals.

Thus, St-Cyr and Kohler took the stage once again in the 2012 title,w506156 Bellringer, and the critics were happy to have them back again. “St-Cyr and Kohler [have] returned in an enthralling, character-propelled new police procedural,” declared Kirkus Reviews, while Publishers Weekly noted: “The combined ingenuity of St. Cyr and Kohler, the harsh realities of the occupation, and an array of intriguing characters will keep readers turning the pages.” Janes reprises the duo in the 2013 Tapestry and in the fifteenth in the series, Carnival, due out next month.

So, without further ado, welcome to Scene of the Crime, Bob. Please tell us about your long-running series. Could you give us a sense of your protagonists and of Paris and all of France in the early 1940s?

Jean-Louis St-Cyr, of the Sûreté Nationale, and his partner, Hermann Kohler, of the Gestapo’s Kripo, its Kriminalpolizei, are now all but through their sixteenth investigation. What this means, in very simple terms, is that for a great deal of the past twenty-four years I have been living with and through those two. Some of the books took longer than others–one learns one’s history, et cetera, as one goes along. Some stories also demand more than others. But the question is, of course, not just why is it that I am continually drawn to German-Occupied France during the Second World War, but why, after perhaps a year and a half or two on one book, do I suddenly come to a point where I’m excited about the next one? I use one-word titles throughout the series and often these come to me while I’m still writing another, and it is then, I’m certain, that the subconscious has patiently been working on this “next one”.

n402313France is, of course, a remarkably beautiful and intelligent country. There are huge differences from region to region, each exhibiting its own patois, character and substance. It’s food, too, and not just the wine. All of these regions have their history, character and substance, and of course, I write historical novels that just happen to be mysteries (or vice versa), yet still, what is it that drives me to do this–me who is still, after all, and was, a mining engineer, a geologist, university lecturer, research scientist, high school teacher–all that sort of baggage that folks carry as they get on in life?

First let me state that what happened during the Occupation of France could have happened anywhere and definitely did, there being degrees of the extreme. Additionally, the books are not anti-French in the slightest. French readers and professors have all stressed this. Louis Malle, the great French film director, did tell me he appreciated and understood what I was up to and wished me well, but warned me that in France, and with the French, I would have a very hard time. Generally the French don’t want to deal with the Occupation, except in very couched terms, and Malle was only too aware of this. But I was to get on with it anyways.

So, first a difficult time and country to choose if one wanted the n432337locals to appreciate and help with what I was up to; secondly, a good Gestapo, as a partner–ah mon Dieu, how could I have chosen to do such a thing too? Well, I didn’t. I more or less fell into it when at the end of The Hunting Ground, a thriller about Lily de St-Germain, née Hollis–it has a very bad Sûreté–I set my pencil down and asked myself, Hey, what about a good Sûreté in all of this? Well, he would have to have a German overseer like everything else, but I’d make Hermann only a Detektiv Inspektor; Jean-Louis would be a Chief Inspector.

You’ve been at this series a long time. Do you ever have any difficulties coming up with new plot lines?

I wrote Mayhem, the first, in seven months back in 1990–that’s the one Louis Malle very kindly read when published in1992. Carousel took about ten months, and by then Constable and Company had “bought” the series. And then, you ask? Well, once you start a series you had better keep on doing it and I did, sometimes two in one year, and I still am. And yes, they don’t get easier only harder and harder, and of course I know German-Occupied France probably as well as anyone can, though–and this is what drives me, too–I am still finding things that excite me.


Continue Reading »

ccdutch2 copyColin Cotterill is the author of numerous volumes in the popular Dr. Siri Paiboun series, featuring the septuagenarian Laotian coroner. Dr. Siri had thought to spend a peaceful retirement, but he is conscripted by the Communist government after the 1975 takeover of Laos. He hopes to make this job a sinecure; in the event he continually finds himself knee deep in murders and cover ups, far from the usual retirement activities.

Siri was introduced in the 2004 title, The Coroner’s Lunch, a “convincing and highly interesting portrayal of an exotic locale… [that] marks the author as someone to watch,” according to Publishers Weekly. Since then, Cotterill has published eight more Dr. Siri mysteries, with The Woman Who Wouldn’t Die appearing in 2013. Continue Reading »

me-198x300Ever wonder about book covers? Who designs them? How do they go about it? I have long been a fan of Jem Butcher, who has done the artwork on my Viennese Mysteries for Severn House. His most recent, for A Matter of Breeding, out in England next spring and in the U.S. in the summer, is just plain smashing.

I am very pleased to present an email discussion I had with Jem regarding his work:

How did you get involved in cover design, how long have you been at it?

I did a degree in Graphic Design at Bath, graduating back in 1990, and fell more or less into book cover design. I’ve been doing it ever since, for various publishers in-house and now as a freelancer.

Do you pick and choose the books or take what comes a matter 3along?

When I was Art Director at Simon and Schuster, I could sometimes choose which covers to work on, but most of the time I spent fire fighting. These days I take what comes along, within reason. I think it is important to be versatile within what is a very narrow design field.

When you get a title, what is the process in determining the cover? Do you always have to read the book to get the concept or are some books just obvious from the title? Can you walk us through the process briefly from MS in hand to finished book cover? Continue Reading »

Annus mirabilis

logoI have written before about the influence my year abroad as a student had on me. Numerous of the “Diverse” feuilletons deal with that year and the other decades I spent in Europe, mostly in Vienna.

Today I want to link to an extended interview I recently had with my

Young man abroad

Young man abroad

Vienna alma mater, the Institute of European Studies (IES) for their “Alum of the Month” publication. As I state in the interview, “Outside of my family, IES Vienna was the single biggest influence in my life. It made me what I am today, it opened the world for me, it allowed me to see possibilities I never knew existed. It was in Vienna that I decided to become a writer. I stayed on for a number of years and learned my craft there and also found a subject that I have mined over and over in nonfiction and fiction: the amazing renaissance of Vienna 1900.”

Here is a great big DANKE to IES for changing my life. And in case you missed the link above, here it is again!

IMG_0854Irish writer Laurence O’Bryan is the author of three fast-paced, international conspiracy thrillers, The Istanbul Puzzle, The Jerusalem Puzzle, and The Manhattan Puzzle, which was just published. The books feature Isabel Sharp and Sean Ryan as they unravel mysteries in each of the locales and have been favorably compared to the work of Dan Brown and Robert Harris. Of the first book in the series, the London Telegraph noted: “A brisk plot…which draws the reader into a conspiratorial rapport.” The Irish Independent also had praise for The Istanbul Puzzle: “This stylish conspiracy thriller is a Turkish delight…combines plenty of stirring action with fascinating historical detail.” Continue Reading »


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